By Andrew Malone
Last updated at 5:24 PM on 24th January 2009
For at the hospital, a doctor was paid to amputate one of his healthy legs. Now speaking in the third person, as if to pretend it didn’t happen to him, Aamir tells me ‘the child’ was in ‘great pain’ after the operation.
‘The leg is removed here,’ he says, pointing to his own stump and grimacing. His limb had been severed mid-calf, leaving him without a foot.
Now in hiding after being rescued from the hospital by a charity, Aamir is one of hundreds of Indian children deliberately crippled by gangs so they can earn extra money begging. He still struggles to talk about his experience.
Asked to describe what he thinks about those who ruined his life, he just stares at the ground in silence. Crippled for life, he is now the lowest of the low.
Dalbeer, 15, is another victim of this shocking industry. Reduced to begging at the railway station after his parents died, Dalbeer was approached by two friendly older strangers one day. ‘I thought they were maybe social workers,’ he told me. ‘I thought they could help me.’
But he was taken from everything he knew to Nagpur, a city a thousand miles from Mumbai, after the woman told him it would ‘be better there’.
And there, along with several others, he was deliberately crippled before being brought back to Mumbai and put to work begging. His leg had been severed in the same place as Aamir’s.
Indian film star Amitabh Bachchan said the film unfairly portrayed a 'dirty underbelly' of India
So just who would chop off the leg of a healthy child? The boys are victims of India’s so-called ‘beggar mafia’ — criminals so violent and amoral that they are prepared to hack the limbs off children, as well as steal new-born babies from hospitals.
They use the children as begging ‘props’ to maximise their earnings from sympathetic passers-by. The plight of India’s child beggars has been thrust into the international spotlight by Slumdog Millionaire, the British-made film tipped for Oscar glory with a staggering ten nominations. It has already won an unprecedented four Hollywood Golden Globes.
Not all the ‘disappeared’ children are maimed or turned into beggars. But all face a truly grim future. According to human rights groups, some are forced into child pornography and used as sex slaves. Others are killed and have their organs sold to wealthy Indians.
The real Slumdog Millionaires: Behind the cinema fantasy, mafia gangs are deliberately crippling children for profit | Mail Online